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  1. Opinion

40 years of Clearwater and the Scientologists

Here’s what readers had to say in Sunday’s letters to the editor. "
Parishioners study with a photo of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard (Times 1997) [PIERSON, DAVE  |  St. Petersburg Times]
Parishioners study with a photo of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard (Times 1997) [PIERSON, DAVE | St. Petersburg Times]
Published Oct. 26, 2019

40 years of Clearwater history

Clear Takeover | Oct. 20

The headline says, “It took only three years,” but Scientologists came to town with the idea that the “takeover” would not just be the footprint. It has been almost 40 years (Nov. 3, 1979) since this headline in the Clearwater Sun should have been a dire warning: “Scientologists plot city takeover.”

Just as Tracey McManus did for the Times, Sun staff writer Rich Leiby did great reporting for the story under that headline. Leiby relied on Scientology documents that were marked “Top Secret” and referred to its “Project Normandy,” the purpose of which was “to obtain enough data on the Clearwater area to determine what groups and individuals will need to penetrate and handle in order to establish area control.” The documents went on to say the “Major Target” is “to fully investigate the Clearwater city and county area so we can distinguish our friends from our enemies and handle as needed.”

Could it be that after 40 years of data collection, Scientology leaders are implementing the “city takeover,” and property acquisition is the first step that we are aware of? Separately from the takeover story, another Sun reporter who wrote about Scientology agreed that Ms. McManus’ story is excellent and offered this observation about the current state of journalism: “Journalistic conventions require reporters to use phrases like ‘spiritual headquarters of Scientology’ even though there is nothing spiritual about Scientology. Speaking of Scientology’s spiritual headquarters is like speaking of (President Donald) Trump’s intellectual thinking. But conventions require this.”

Ron Stuart, Clearwater

Imagining a different future

Clear Takeover | Oct. 20

Scientology’s international spiritual headquarters in downtown Clearwater is anchored by the Flag Building, on left. An elevated walkway connects the building to the Fort Harrison Hotel, the church’s first purchase in the city in 1975. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]

Imagine Clearwater? The imagining is over. The reality is that the Church of Scientology owns most of downtown Clearwater. It is past time that Scientology bears the cost of the city services it enjoys. Redraw city of Clearwater boundaries to exclude Scientology properties, and let the Church of Scientology fend for itself.

Bob Holsinger, Clearwater

Too late now

Clear Takeover | Oct. 20

Like Clearwater’s city leaders, I was shocked and dismayed after reading about Scientology’s frenetic pace in buying up the downtown area. As a Clearwater native, I am deeply concerned that the horse has already left the barn in attempting to wrest control of my hometown’s future from these people, and any attempts to make Clearwater “sparkling” again will be squelched. Perhaps the new downtown re-development slogan should be “Imagine Clearwater Without Scientology.”

Steve Allbritton, Palm Harbor

Legislators, time to step up

Toughen policies to prevent toxic algae blooms | Column, Oct. 20

Boats docked at Central Marine in Stuart are surrounded by blue-green algae in the summer of 2016.

The Legislature has opportunities to address Florida water qualities. This is not just about Red Tide and the Okeechobee outflows but includes our springs, estuaries, lakes, waterways, bays, rivers, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Our human shortsightedness has created many of the problems of poor quality in all these water bodies. Better policies and legislation will go miles toward the restoration and treatment that these bodies of water require and we as citizens deserve. So, how about it, Legislature? Our new governor has surprised many by his aggressive stance on a better environment. The citizens are watching closely.

Scott Bruin, St. Petersburg

The truth on tax rates

Even a wealth tax can’t cover candidates’ proposals | Column, Oct. 20

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan speaks at a rally for Sen. David Durenberger in February 1982.

It has long been Republican orthodoxy that raising the tax rates of the highest earners hurts the economy and hinders economic growth. But history does not bear this out. The most prosperous period in this country’s history was the postwar boom that started after World War II and lasted until 1973-75. During this time, the highest tax rates did not drop below 70 percent. Ronald Reagan, running on a promise to recharge the economy, lowered rates twice: in 1981 from 70 percent to 50 percent; then again in 1986, further decreasing the top rate to 28 percent. Under President Bill Clinton, Democrats raised the top tax rate to 39.6 percent. Clinton’s administration saw the longest economic expansion in U.S. history to that point, lasting until March 2001. Clinton and the Democrats’ tax increase did not stop the expansion. Some liberal economists even think raising tax rates on the rich helped fuel the expansion. The Clinton administration also saw the last balanced federal budget.

Mike Salinero, Lutz

Borrow this from abroad

Even a wealth tax can’t cover candidates’ proposals | Column, Oct. 20

Perhaps a wealth tax isn’t the best idea to raise revenue for the federal government. This columnist points out that Germany tried it, and it didn’t work. Maybe, we could tryout something else that has proven to be a success in Germany: their version of Medicare for all. They cover all their citizens, at a much lower cost and have better health results. To wit, the United States spends 17.8 percent of GDP ($19.39 trillion) on health care for a cost of $3.4 trillion. Germany spends 11.3 percent of GDP.

If all we did was follow the Germans proven system, we could reduce our cost to $2.2 trillion — a savings of $1.2 trillion. The question is not how will we pay for it, but rather, what will we do with the savings. We could use the savings to reduce the deficit, which was greatly increased by the recent tax cut that went predominantly to corporations and the wealthy (thank you very much).

Finally, I don’t impugn Americans who succeed by “dint of innovation, ingenuity and hard work.” I do however, take exception with corporations who feign “conscience, generosity, (and) giving back,” as you see in their commercials while simultaneously deploying thousands of lobbyists to secure their advantage in Washington.

The loopholes they have written into our laws decrease competition, innovation and growth. We can do better than this.

Tom Kimler, St. Petersburg

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